This weeks blog, understanding and living with stress 101, is to help you grow your awareness, increase your knowledge and leave you with some actionable steps to move forward.
Whether it’s been mental, physical or emotional stress, these stresses have been a significant part of my life. However, it’s something I manage and live along side each day, which makes me even more resilient!
I feel to begin dealing with something difficult, is to acknowledge and understand the subject first. Through good understanding you can find your root cause and take actionable steps to transform your stress into great mental clarity, motivation and positive mental health.
So this is what I want to offer you today. Firstly though, let’s see where you are on the stress scale.
WHICH TYPE OF STRESS ARE YOU?
Stress comes in two forms..
Complementary stress is great for times when it allows our bodies to become stronger and fitter from exercise or finally completing that big work project, to get you that promotion you’ve wanted.
Uncomplimentary is something which gets you all ruffled up and there’s no good outcome, aka wasted energy. The type we really want to manage and stay away from.
It’s not all bad though!
Stress is your way of survival. It’s built into your body so you’re protected when a trigger sparks off your sympathetic nervous system. This then signals the “fight or flight response”, which switches your body into ‘take action’ mode so you can avoid danger. Pretty clever ey!
THE ISSUE IS THAT YOUR BODY DOESN'T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
A BEAR CHASING YOU AND A DIFFICULT WORK-RELATED ISSUE
This mechanism works wonders if you were faced by a true danger. However imagine being chased by a bear several times every day…feels pretty stressful huh?
Same goes for anything super challenging in our lives which we feel unable to cope with. Work project, lack of sleep, difficult relationships etc all make the body feel the same way. Ultimately this can ends in burn out.
So, let’s get into understanding stress so we can get to know what’s happening in our body.
THE WHAT, WHY & HOW OF STRESS
THE ALARM STAGE
This is your body going into panic mode so your sympathetic nervous system is activated to protect you. During feelings of stress the brain triggers the adrenal glands to secrete hormones, like cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline). This results in the rest of your body feeling stressed and fills you with emergency energy. Not only that but your blood rushes to your brain and muscles ready for action, leaving the inner organs pretty vulnerable.
THE ADAPTIVE STAGE
After the initial stress response your body attempts to revert back to it’s original state. This becomes pretty tricky if stress is triggered over and over again. In this constant high anxiety state the body builds up a resistance and tolerance to deal with it. In no way is this good for our bodies. The extended release of stress hormones effects your body, lowers your immunity defense which potentially leads to sickness.
THE EXHAUSTION STAGE
Imagine that bear is still chasing you. When your body has remained in this frazzled state for an extended period, your emergency stores slowly disappear and your body will start to shut down. This is called BURN OUT, or “burning the candle at both ends” as my mum used to say.
Sounds pretty exhausting right?
However there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Just as the sympathetic nervous system turns ON the “fight or flight response,” the parasympathetic nervous system turns it OFF. The parasympathetic nervous system helps the body conserve energy and rest.
The ability to go from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest” is critical for your wellbeing. Unfortunately, creating a state of relaxation can be difficult within our busy work schedules, family commitments and house chores. This high or low level chronic stress will be altering your natural balance, something we really need for overall health and wellbeing.
ACTIVATE YOUR RELAXATION RESPONSE
Finding ways to activate our relaxation response is vital to your overall health and wellbeing.
So I thought I would share a few ideas you could implement right away!
- Practice calming activities like breathing techniques, meditation and light movement. There’s plenty of videos online, one of my favourites being a youtube channel called ‘Yoga with Adriene’.
- Organise your work and living spaces to be clutter-free and stress free environments.
- Plan and prioritise your schedule using a daily or weekly planner.
- Focus on one thing at a time, easier said than does but is probably one of the most effective ways!
- If you can delegate tasks at home and in work whenever possible if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
One last thing, I want to leave you with this quick 3 minute video from Deepak Chopra, who leads you through a 3 minute meditation with a bit of a twist, to bring you into a state of calm. Pretty incredible!
To health and happiness,